Future of Europe: the conference is here! | opinion

1. Tomorrow the joint declaration by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on the establishment and organization of the conference on the future of Europe will be finalized. This agreement comes a year late, a delay not caused by the pandemic and for which the council was solely responsible. Tomorrow there will be joy and drum rolls for the cameras and microphones. But without losing hope that a window will open a crack, it’s good to contain the mood. It is necessary to look closely at the “painful path” that has been taken in the Council, its protagonists and their positions. It is important to recognize the “pitfalls” that this joint statement hides. It is imperative to preserve the space for the conference to gain its own dynamic, based on participation and citizens’ initiative, able to break the corset by which the Council seems to domesticate it.

2. First of all, it should be remembered that the Council – that is, the vast majority of the governments of the Member States – never wanted the conference. With the exception of Emmanuel Macron, who incidentally wrote “his” conclusions beforehand, and the Austrian government, very few would be enthusiasts of an exercise of listening and civic participation that is unparalleled in the past. Some of the governments that devalued the initiative the most were Portuguese. To prove this, it is enough to enforce its absence in official documents or statements from members of the government by June 2020. In addition, a speech by the Prime Minister to the Portuguese Working Group in Brussels in December 2019 was famous. in institutions where he loudly and clearly did not see the conference as a priority. Indeed, it should be noted that in June 2020 alone, Portugal blocked the approval of the Council’s unilateral position, which was essential for the opening of negotiations with Parliament and the Commission. In addition, the conference was not even mentioned in the program of the Germany-Portugal-Slovenia presidential trio. As of July 2020, things have changed. The Portuguese government eventually converted, in the inevitability of the conference, and fortunately began to work actively with all those in parliament who wanted to move it forward. In fact, everything indicated that it fell under the Portuguese Presidency, which was still an attraction and an incentive. For those who followed the process from the cradle, it was already clear in January 2020 that the leadership of the initiative had to be shared by the three institutions. This was the controversy that their organizational structure could create. The Portuguese government understood this as early as December 2020 and sought a compromise that culminates in this declaration.

3. This point in the organization and management of the conference is, moreover, the first weakness of the agreement. It is one thing to place the Protocol Presidency at the head of the three institutions and to include them on an executive committee through representatives. Another, completely different idea is the idea that the day-to-day organization and administration is left to a college in which the members do not work full-time. Given that it will be necessary to organize many meetings of national and European citizens and digital platforms of various kinds in record time and in a pandemic or post-pandemic situation, the executive body should have clear leadership. The organizational objection is all the more relevant given that it is slated to end the conference in spring 2022, which is an apparently short deadline, clearly determined by the political convenience of the French President. An interim solution, as Parliament has always argued, would be to set a minimum duration of two years, but with provisional conclusions after twelve months, on those issues that need more urgent political or legislative consideration (given the 2004 European elections). 2024).

4. The original idea – which is now accepted – is to bring together the so-called Citizens’ Assemblies, inspired by the well-known Irish experience. Citizens’ bodies must be representative of the diversity of the societies to which they belong and can be structured in various formats at local, regional, national, transnational and European levels. In these flexible agenda meetings, the debate should lead to conclusions that can be taken to the plenary session of the conference. This will be an admittedly institutional body represented by the European and national parliaments, the Council and the Commission. The joint declaration expects this institutional platform to also include representatives of the citizens. This seemingly innocuous rule is a sprain in the principles that must guide this vast and complex exercise. It is one thing to encourage unprecedented public consultation, consultation and participation. It is quite another thing to confuse this participation with the always dangerous and undesirable mechanisms of direct democracy.

5. With all the vicissitudes surrounding the arrival at that first moment, it is necessary to view the conference with realism and without undue enthusiasm. Some signs are worrying and may frustrate many of the expectations of the citizens they are about to mobilize and those who have dreamed of them. But I am absolutely convinced that the conference, even against the reserved and reserved attitudes of so many, even against the militant Machiavellianism of many others, can generate a renewing spirit of the European project. It can unleash an energy capable of strengthening European democracy and give the Union instruments to become more and more a unit that represents the aspirations and responds to the wishes of the peoples of Europe.

YES Pope Francis. The visit to Iraq was not just a tribute to Christian minorities; It was a gesture of peace and reconciliation that robs those who want to turn religion into a pretext for war and hatred.

NOT a liberal initiative. By not supporting Carlos Moedas, he misses what he considers partisan interests and puts it before the interests of the people of Lisbon. It will ricochet. Trying to blame the PSD and its leader is simply an excuse for poor pay.

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